heir undefeated season alive as they pulled away from the Panther Creek Panthers for a 75-30 bi-district victory last week — their first postseason win since 2013. Next up for head coach Tyler Tabor’s squad is its greatest challenge of the 2018 season to date
Blanket (11-0), the champion of District 15, will square off with the No. 7 Oakwood Panthers (7-3), champions of District 13, in a Class A Division II Region IV semifinal at 6 p.m. Friday in Abbott.
The Tigers are playing on Thanksgiving weekend for the first time in over a decade, an occurrence Tabor hopes becomes more frequent for Blanket.
“I talked to the kids earlier this week about what a blessing it is and how many teams are at home wishing they were playing this week,” Tabor said. “This is something they can look back on later in life. Good teams play at Thanksgiving and we talked about all that. They’ll have the rest of their life to have a normal Thanksgiving and this year is something they haven’t had a chance to do very often. We’re pleased and feel blessed to be here and we want to make this something that we can keep doing in years to come.”
In the win over Panther Creek, Blanket led 28-22 late in the second quarter before reeling off 47 of the game’s final 55 points.
“What I liked the most is the way we were physical with Panther Creek,” Tabor said. “We stayed the course after some early first-half scores by them. We were able to wear them down, wear them out. The longer the game went the more in control we got.
“What I didn’t like was them passing the ball as effectively as they did against us. Our pass rush was not good, we took some pretty poor angles against them rushing the passer. We didn’t cover well at times, but in the second half it got better.”
The Tigers finished with 299 yards of total offense, including 254 on the ground.
Kameron Spivey again led the charge with 222 rushing yards and six touchdowns, while completing both of his pass attempts including a 45-yard scoring strike to Tyler Simpson. Hector Castaneda chipped in 20 yards and a rushing touchdown.
Defensively, the Tigers gave up 212 yards, with 174 coming through the air, but created five turnovers. Castaneda finished with 7.5 tackles and returned an interception for a touchdown, while Simpson added seven tackles and scored on an a fumble recovery. John John Alexander chipped in six tackles while Spivey and Tanner Isom contributed 5.5 tackles apiece.
Oakwood, meanwhile, is coming off a 72-0 bi-district victory over McDade. The Panthers are in the midst of a five-game win streak in which they have outscored their foes 317-14 — an average of 63-3 in that span. Oakwood’s losses this season have come at the hands of Milford (57-42), Calvert (46-35) and Union Hill (84-36).
“This is not a team you want to get off to a slow start against,” Tabor said. “Their overall team speed just scares the dog out of you. They have some talented athletes and they have speed everywhere. They have a big bruising back that plays spread back and they have speedy running backs and they try to get them the ball in space. Our biggest concern is them having the ball in space because overall they’re just faster than we are.
“What we’re going to have to do is control the ball on offense and take it to them. Be physical with them, control the clock, take away some of their big plays and make them earn touchdowns and not just give it to them on long passes or long runs. We have to shorten the game, but make it a physical game. They’ve lost three games against quality opponents, and that seems like that’s what was the common denominator in the losses. Be relentless, gang tackle and be disciplined. We can take a poor angle this week or they’ll score.”
According to sixmanfootball.com, Blanket is a 14-point underdog.
Friday’s winner will face either No. 6 Calvert (8-2) or No. 8 Richland Springs (10-1) in the Class A Division II Region IV championship game next weekend.